Basketball, Track & Field
Favorite athlete: Dennis Rodman
Favorite team: Sixers
Favorite memory competing in sports: Just all the championships and big meets in basketball and track.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: First technical in fifth grade. Shoved girl and she started crying. I was very embarrassed.
Music on Playlist: I love all music. I listen to everything.
Future plans: Go to Kutztown and figure out what I want to do.
Words to live by: “Every day is a gift.”
One goal before turning 30: To just have a steady job and be happy with where I’m at.
One thing people don’t know about me: I’m shy when you first meet me. Once I’m comfortable, I don’t shut up.
By GORDON GLANTZ
Neshaminy’s Kacie Sienko is one of the area’s premier long jumpers, and the soft-spoken senior has lofty goals for the postseason in districts and states. She is also coming on strong as a first-year competitor in the triple jump.
That’s her literal skill wheelhouse.
Figuratively speaking, it could easily be said that Sienko is a hurdler, as she has overcome many hurdles to get to where she is now as an incoming student-athlete at Kutztown University.
Sienko attended Archbishop Wood in Warminster as a freshman, making the varsity basketball team but encountering the injury bug.
“I had a back injury my freshman year,” she said. “It was tough to deal with. I was out all summer. I couldn’t train or anything. That was really hard for me.
“(Wood) didn’t have a track that we could practice on, and Neshaminy did. Plus, Neshaminy is closer - I live three minutes away from the high school.”
In spite of the intrinsic benefits, transferring to a larger public school could have been daunting for a naturally quiet person.
While she soon found her way socially, her team’s successful basketball season ran long, and Sienko was slow to bounce back from an ankle injury and was unable to eclipse her previous personal best of 16-9 in the long jump all that spring.
“That was really frustrating,” said Sienko, who transitioned from AAU hoops to track during her middle school years. “In eighth grade, my PR was 16-9. In 10th grade, I couldn’t match it.”
When Sienko was back where she hoped to be for her junior track season, the scourge of COVID-19 reared its head and forced the cancelling of the whole campaign.
“Looking at my season now - if I had last season, too, I wonder where I could be now,” Sienko said. “That makes me really upset to think about because I just love track so much. Not being able to do anything was hard for me.”
As a senior, she was not overjoyed with being a hybrid student – Neshaminy only recently went back to five days in-person school, but she emerged as a leader on the basketball team this winter where she was the only returning senior.
“This year was a different role as the only senior on the team, which we know is not very easy,” said coach Joe Lally. “It was a tough year between COVID and everything else, and she did her best to be the leader we needed for the team.”
“I try to lead by example,” said Sienko. “I feel like as long as I’m putting in as much effort as I can, everyone else will, too, hopefully.”
Springing Into Action
And now, come spring, Sienko has not missed a beat this track season.
With a new personal best in the long jump at 17-8 ¼, call it making up for lost time. Call it another hurdle cleared.
“If I were to jump that at districts,” said Sienko. “I would qualify for states. Last time I checked, I was ranked seventh in the state. That was when my PR was 17-5. Since I PR-ed again, I think I would move up. So, I’m at the state level for the long jump.”
Quite an accomplishment for a student-athlete who’s had to overcome one setback after another.
“She definitely has had a lot of hurdles; a lot of setbacks, between injuries and COVID, but she has done a great job,” Neshaminy jumping coach Mike Dillon said. “She is improving all the time, and we’re hoping for a strong finish to the season. I’m hoping, without putting undue pressure on her, that this is a stepping stone to states.”
Neshaminy track coach Syd White has had a front-row seat for her lesson in perseverance and is enjoying the way it is now falling into place.
“Kacie is an incredibly hardworking athlete and team leader,” he said. “Like all athletes today, she has had to overcome to difficulties of missed opportunities and COVID 19 restrictions.
“Over the past three years, Kacie has also had to overcome injuries that have limited her ability to perform to the extent that she wanted. Despite these difficulties, Kacie has become one of the better jumpers in Pennsylvania, and she is looking forward to proving that over the last few weeks of this season.”
Sienko has also come a long way in a short time in the triple jump. Her personal best is currently 34-8, which puts in the mix for districts.
“I’ve always wanted to try it,” said Sienko, who plans to continue with the triple jump at Kutztown. “I just wasn’t able to because of my back. It’s really hard on your back, and I wanted to just make sure that I was fully healed. I was able to finally try it and, actually, I’m having a lot of fun doing it. I really like it.”
Dillon has been impressed with the triple jump progress.
“She just started the triple jump,” he said. “It’s been about three weeks to a month now. She is a natural. We just showed her how to do it, and she just took it from there.
“She gets better all the time. She’s dedicated, focused and just a pleasure to coach. It has been a pleasure for me to see her improve so much while overcoming so much. We’re hoping for a strong finish.”
With her vital junior season wiped out by COVID, Sienko took matters into her own hands – or feet – by competing in all-comers meets during the summer while also reaching out to college coaches and ended up with several options.
An excellent student and member of the National Honor Society, she selected Kutztown – the alma mater of her mom, Barb – over the likes of Catholic University and fellow PSAC schools Millersville and Bloomsburg.
“I really liked the campus,” said Sienko, who plans to major in something sports-related, such as sports marketing/management. “I just felt really comfortable there. I loved the coaches at Kutztown. They were all very nice. I liked the facilities there, too - I liked the indoor track.
“I thought it was a good decision. I also like that my mother went there. So, that also influenced my decision. I thought it would be cool to go where my mom went.”
In addition to her mom, Sienko credits her whole family – her dad (Joe), brother/best friend (Owen) and “Pop Pop” (Bo) – for being her guiding lights through adversity.
“They supported me through every decision I’ve made, and they’ve always pushed me to go out on a limb and do things that might be uncomfortable for me but, in the end, they are always right,” she said, also thanking her coaches for easing the social transition when transferring in as a sophomore.
“I was so anxious about transferring to Neshaminy. I’m so thankful for how easy Coach Lally - and all the coaches - made it for me to come there,” she said. “I’m definitely coming out of my shell. I’m shy when you first meet me. Once I’m comfortable, I don’t shut up.”
Lally, who stepped down at the end of the year, could not have known back then that the young lady he took under his wing would be a guiding light as a senior.
“She’s fought through so many injuries,” said Lally. “She came to us after her freshman year, and we were really excited to get her. I knew her from playing basketball with Kristin (Curley), Olivia (Scotti) and Emily (Tantala) at Our Lady of Grace. I had watched those kids and ran some practices, so I knew she was going to Wood. Then I got the call she was coming to Neshaminy.
“We were very excited. We knew she was fast, she was athletic, she could jump. We thought she would add so many things to our team, which she did when she was healthy.
"She always found a way to get herself back on the floor to help the team. She’s a good kid. She works hard and goes about her business. We were glad to have her. She was a big asset to us.”